May 23, 2022

Olympic athletes decry conditions in Beijing’s ‘quarantine hotels’

With the Olympic winter games in Beijing barely underway, reports are already coming fast and furious about the appalling conditions in which athletes who test positive for COVID-19 are being forced by Chinese organizers to quarantine, as NPR reports.

According to complaints from teams hailing from Belgium, Russia, and Germany, among others, COVID-positive competitors have found themselves trapped in horrific scenarios marked by substandard food, nearly nonexistent training or exercise opportunities, and scant Internet access with which to stay in contact with officials from their home countries.

A particularly harrowing account was posted by Russian biathlon competitor Valeria Vasnetsova on Instagram, in which she remarked on the physically challenging conditions in the Chinese “quarantine hotels.”

Detailing her experience in isolation, Vasnetsova wrote, “My stomach hurts, I’m very pale and I have huge black circles around my eyes. I want all this to end. I cry every day. I’m very tired.”

Vasnetsova also conducted a bit of amateur surveillance and discovered that the meals being provided to athletes were noticeably inferior to those offered to others in quarantine, such as team staff, with the biathlete herself receiving only “plain pasta, an orange sauce, charred meat on a bone, a few potatoes and no greens,” while a team doctor in the same building receiving fresh fruit, greens, and even prawns.

“I honestly don’t understand, why is there this attitude to us, the athletes?!” Vasnetsova lamented, echoing sentiments shared by Belgian skeleton racing competitor Kim Meylemans, who posted a series of tearful observations about her experience in a quarantine facility, far removed from the Olympic Village, where other athletes are lodged.

The subpar conditions for COVID-positive athletes were also blasted by the head of Germany’s winter games delegation, Dirk Schimmelpfennig, who declared the accommodations in which repeat gold medal-winning skier Eric Frenzel were held as “unreasonable,” in that they were tiny, unhygienic, and marked by a paucity of appropriate food, as NPR further noted.

As Dan Wetzel of Yahoo!Sports notes, the fact that athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 are being “treated like low-level criminals” is shameful, but perhaps not terribly surprising, given the draconian approach for which Chinese officials are well known, and he places blame at the feet of – among others – the International Olympic Committee that “should have preemptively protected them.”

That any Olympians and their national team organizers were ever forced to cower at the prospect of voicing their concerns for fear that doing so might bring even harsher treatment is, as Wetzel aptly points out, indicative of the “absurd” nature of these games, which the oppressive Chinese regime should never have been granted the privilege to host.

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